Question put to the sick

Telling Your Story

This morning Georgia (I’ll dispense with referring to her as my mother-in-law since most of you know that already) gave Dawn and I each our own copies of the Mark Nepo book, The Book of Awakening. It is a book set up with brief readings for each day — they are written to be inspirational, thought-provoking, and, I suppose, awakening in a way. Though Georgia simply opens her own copy to a random page each day, reading whatever bits of wisdom appear before her, I have chosen to begin the book with today’s entry.

And I’m glad that I did. Today’s writing is entitled Questions Put to the Sick — III, and has the following epigraph:

“When was the last time you told your story?” — Question put to the sick by a Native American medicine man.

Okay, so attributing a quote to an anonymous “Native American medicine man” is a bit hokey. I’ll grant you that. But the days’ entry was the perfect one for me to read, and renewed my feeling of needing this blog at this time in my life. Honestly, I used to say to people when the subject of blogs came up, “I don’t believe in blogs.” It wasn’t until I began my ecoTheater project and all of the research it took that I found a blog to be helpful, both for keeping my mind focused and reaching out to those in the American theater community interested in the idea of green theater. That blog, however, is a professional one. It focuses on an idea grounded in my personal beliefs that happens to intersect in with my chosen field — my chosen art. It isn’t a story really. It certainly isn’t my story, but merely a manifestation of how my life and story have shaped my feelings about my art, my profession.

But this blog is my story. My story, told in real-time. Nepo’s entry for September 15 has reminded me of that, and why it’s important that I share it:

“Stories are like time capsules,” he writes. “They carry pieces of meaning and truth over time. Whether it is a myth from 4,000 years ago or your untold story from childhood, the meaning waits like a dry ration…It is the sweat and tears of the telling that bring the meaning out of its sleep as if no time has passed.”

So, for those of you still keeping up with my posts, thank you. Thank you for helping me bring the meaning out of the sweat and tears.

And now, back to the story.

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Specimen #2 and Sperm Motility

(I think the header is disclaimer enough. I decided when I started this blog that if it was to be about something as personal as my health and my struggle with cancer, it was going to have to be all or nothing. If you aren’t interested in this particular “fertility” thread, please skip this post.)

I visited the now infamous collection room again this morning. I parked the car in the garage, found the “H” elevators and took one to the sixth floor, emerging in the Obstetrics & Gynecology ward, and approached the receptionist sitting under the the sign reading “endocrinology.” I went alone today, and I felt the strangeness of my presence on the sixth floor much more than when Dawn accompanied me the first time. Being a man on that floor, and not being a doctor is like having a sign plastered on your forehead that reads, “I HAVE COME HERE TO MASTURBATE.”

The receptionist, remembered my name, and I wasn’t sure what to think of that. I don’t know why, but in this place it made me feel more self-conscience. She said, “You remember where the collection room is, right?” I did, of course, and I made the walk down the twisting corridors, through the door that reads “Not A Thoroughfare,” beyond which is the door to the collection room itself. I went in and realized that there was a table lamp left on, and the overhead flourescents were not on. It made me feel more comfortable, and I wished I had noticed that I could do this the first time.

I also made note that the poster behind the television commemorates Super Bowl XXXI when the Packers defeated the Patriots 35-21. It is an aerial shot of the Louisiana Superdome where the game was played. I still can’t fathom this choice of decor, and can only imagine the conversations that led to the decision to put up football posters in the collection room. “What else are we gonna pu tup on the walls,” someone must have asked, “still life paintings of flowers in a vase and fruit?” Certainly the normal hospital waiting room art would not do. Too foofy for men focused on erections and ejaculations. Putting up shots of scantily clad women would be overly tasteless for a hospital too — not to mention sexist and homophobic, as I am sure a fair number of gay men have visited that room in the center of the sixth floor for one reason or another. Then again, you couldn’t put up one poster of a sexy woman, and another of a sexy may. You’re bound to turn off someone in that situation. Have I discussed the wall art of the collection room enough now? Okay, let’s move on…

I spent as little time as possible in the room today. It’s funny, the little miniature paper bag that you have to put the specimen jar in for the nurse who comes in when you are done. The first time I thought, oh, that makes sense, I wouldn’t want to look at it either. But they always pull it out and look at it. I wonder if they ever find it to be unacceptable? I’m sorry, Mr. Lawler, but you are going to have to do better than that! Let’s try again, okay? Now call me when you’re done. And concentrate!

After I provided the second specimen, I trotted downstairs and checked in to get my blood drawn. I think it was my eighth needle since the cancer story began to unfold two weeks ago. Have I mentioned that I hate needles? I think I like the blood draw the least. The woman (they are called phlebotomists, right?) took me to a special room with one of the most comfortable, lounging medical chairs ever designed when I told her that I get “fainty” when I have blood drawn. I tried to read the Armstrong book, but that only last through the first vial. The woman was very cool. We talked about tattoos, and how sometimes the biggest, most brutish men can’t handle tattoos. I told her I have two. She has nine. “They’re addictive,” she said.When I arrived home, Dawn was distraught to hear that I had not inquired about the results of the the sperm thaw test. See, my head is frequently in the clouds these days, and my absentmindedness sometimes strikes at the worst possible moments. Like when a doctor is rattling on about things that sound boring but are actually quite important.Apparently, what they do is take the sperm, test it for motility — which in layman’s terms is the percentage of sperm that are moving — and then they freeze it. The next day or so they let it thaw and they test the motility again. They want to know how much viable sperm there is going to be if we need to use it in the future. Anyway, I forgot to ask about this test, which we had been told would be complete by today. Oops. I promised Dawn I would call the Hospital to find out, and I did.

My numbers aren’t great. The nurse on the phone kept trying to tell me that they are used to seeing numbers like that, which really wasn’t encouraging considering that they deal with infertility all the time!

The motility of my sperm pre-freeze was 29%. An average range would normally be above 50%. The motility of my sperm post-thaw was a meager 9.9%. I’m trying to convince myself that this is okay, that it is better to know the odds we’re up against, than to be blindly trying to get pregnant without the knowledge. I’m not sure how much my sperm has been affected by the cancer, or what my sperm motility might have been like when I had two healthy testicles. But, that doesn’t really matter now, does it?

There is one other test to conduct, which she referred to as morphology. This test will look at the percentage of normal, healthy sperm. In other words, do they have all their parts intact.

I have one more specimen collection appointment — at 7:30 in the morning on Monday! Wish me luck.

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One Response to “Question put to the sick”

  1. I hate needles,and when I had to go through the barrage of needlework for my C-word that wasnot to be- hooplah I found that I would just sing. Belt it out. It was either that or hit the deck on them. Gospel does nicely as does patriotic anthems. Whatever I could do to keep from fainting. I think I become a highlight of a plebotomists day as I give them a hearty rendition of Jingle Bells. It works.

    I gave birth while listening to the Three Tenors, (well, what I heard above my screaming and my husbands frantic instructions) so I think music has always been my coping point.

    I don’t think they make a card wishing you a Happy Sperm Harvesting Day, but the thoughts are there nonetheless.

    P.S., I’m making my husband read your blog as he is Mr. had problems with the prostate. Good info to know here,good to know. Good thoughts. Shannon

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